CHICAGO — Uber driver Hadi Abdollahian thought he was signing up for a three-hour drive to suburban Buffalo Grove, Illinois, when he picked up a passenger Sunday night at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
But the Iranian refugee didn’t think twice when he found out the actual destination was Buffalo, NEW YORK, some 500 miles and eight hours from Chicago. After all, the passenger told him it was an emergency: He had to work in the morning and he had missed his connecting flight. There was no other way to get there in time.
“I’m a man of my words and if someone says it’s an emergency he really means it,” said Abdollahian, 26.
He would soon learn the passenger in his Nissan Altima was new Buffalo Bills player Shareece Wright, who was on his way to his first day of voluntary offseason practice.
They arrived at 1 Bills Drive with mere minutes to spare before 7 a.m. meetings, Wright said. The defensive cornerback tipped Abdollahian $300 on top of the $632.08 ride in a delightful vignette of the sharing economy bringing people together.
But the story didn’t end there.
The Bills lauded Wright for his dedication to his new team. The former Baltimore Raven was more impressed with his driver’s dedication to getting him to Buffalo on a moment’s notice.
Wright said he had changed his flight from California to give himself extra time to connect. But due to flight delays, he missed it anyway and the next one was not until the morning.
He was stressed. He called two Uber drivers and both canceled on him as soon as they found out the final destination (Uber does not reveal the destination until the passenger gets in the car and the driver starts the trip). On the third try, Abdollahian did not skip a beat when Wright told him he meant New York, not Illinois.
“He didn’t complain once. He kept me from stressing out. The only thing he complained about was people driving 50 miles an hour,” Wright said. “His focus was to get me there on time and he did.”
Road trip bonds form
They talked for hours and shared their lives with each other, the two men told CNN. Abdollahian revealed his dream of becoming an astronaut; Wright talked about his family and how he broke into professional football.
Wright was struck by Abdollahian’s story of his journey to the United States from Iran. He said he left the country in 2011 amid circumstances too painful to share. Abdollahian said he spent two years in Turkey before entering the United States in 2013 as a refugee.
“The story of his resilience to come to the US alone with no family and learn English, it says a lot,” Wright said.
Abdollahian landed in Chicago and got a job while he studied computer science at Harold Washington College, he said. He graduated in December with an associate’s degree and started driving for Uber after his company laid him off, he said. He applied to Loyola University Chicago and said he was accepted. Now he’s just figuring out how to pay for it.
An extra tip
When local company Bluerock Energy heard about the road trip they gave Wright a check to reimburse him for the Uber ride. But Wright thought Abdollahian deserved it more than he did and passed it along.
“Anyone’s who’s that passionate and focused about what he’s doing, I’m more than willing to help anyone who’s putting that foot forward to be successful.”
Abdollahian confirmed that he received the check and shared a picture of it on Twitter. It’s his only proof of the trip — he didn’t ask for a selfie or take a pictures because he didn’t “want to be that guy,” he said.
Cheesy as it may sound, he considers his new friendship with Wright to be the greatest benefit of the trip.
“He was so friendly. I loved his company, I wasn’t expecting to meet someone like this,” he told CNN. “I really appreciate him.”